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Harry receives a warrior welcome

Published 09/05/2015

Prince Harry receives a traditional Maori hongi greeting with Kairangi (welcome) leader Thomas Vela at Government House in Wellington, New Zealand (SNPA/AP)
Prince Harry receives a traditional Maori hongi greeting with Kairangi (welcome) leader Thomas Vela at Government House in Wellington, New Zealand (SNPA/AP)

Prince Harry has begun his tour of New Zealand by receiving an ancient warrior welcome performed by members of the country's armed forces.

The Prince, who arrived from Sydney having just completed a month-long attachment with the Australian Defence Force, was met by prime minister John Key at a military terminal in the capital Wellington.

He was then treated to the ceremonial welcome on the lawn in front of Government House which included a Maori greeting, known as a powhiri.

At the house he was invited to hongi, where he clasped hands and pressed his nose up against the people he met.

Performed by members of the New Zealand armed forces at the home of the Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae and his wife Lady Janine, the powhiri started with a wero, an ancient tradition to determine whether visitors come in peace.

It was then followed by a karanga, a call of welcome, and then the famous haka.

Advancing towards Harry, a warrior flourished a wooden fighting staff and carried a dart in his belt which he placed at the Prince's feet, who then picked it up while keeping his eyes on the warrior.

He also saw a mass haka by students from a local college and was given a 21-gun salute.

Imogen Kennedy-Smith, nine, who spoke to Harry, said: "He was talking to my class and one of the boys asked what football team does the royals support and he said mostly Arsenal. He was nice, he was taller than I expected, he said encouraging things to us. His orange hair was brighter than I expected."

The week-long visit is the first Harry has made to New Zealand and throughout the trip he is expected to be given a broad introduction to Kiwi culture and society.

He will visit major cities such as Wellington and Auckland, as well as the country's most southern and very remote community on Stewart island.

Another school girl at the welcome said she passed on a card for his new-born niece and he told her he'd make sure she got it.

Rakaia Burwell-Garratt, nine, from Kilbirnie School, said: "I gave him a card for Princess Charlotte. I wrote in it, I hope you like being a princess and happy birthday for your first week'."

Harry tucked the envelope into his suit pocket and told her: "I won't open it, I'll keep it safe and I'll make sure she gets it."

He also spoke to Shea Maxwell, 10, about school, and told him: "Make the most of school, that's all I can say."

The next engagement saw the Prince attend a wreath-laying ceremony at the recently opened Pukeahu National War Memorial Park and place a fern on the mantle of the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior.

He was also joined by the Australian High Commissioner who escorted him to the Australian War Memorial on the opposite side of the park.

About 500 well-wishers, some who had been waiting for seven hours, screamed and shouted as he arrived at the park with one sign saying "Don't worry I won't kiss you".

Asked how he was enjoying his first day, Harry replied: "I'm loving it. Everyone's very friendly, it's just like being at home."

Coming in the centenary year of the Gallipoli campaign, which saw Harry visit Turkey with his father the Prince of Wales last month, the visit recognises the sacrifice of members of the New Zealand Armed Forces.

A British memorial is expected to be installed later in the year, in recognition of shared losses at the Battle of the Somme, as well as memorials from France, the United States, Canada, Belgium and the Pacific Islands.

He then finished off the first day of his visit by accompanying the Governor General and his family to the Hurricanes vs Sharks Super 15 rugby match at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington.

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